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Local Government and Planning (Parkland and Windfall Development)

Lorely Burt accordingly presented a Bill to impose conditions on the sale of parkland by local authorities, to make provision about the circumstances in which a planning application may be rejected by a local authority and about rights of appeal in such circumstances; to prohibit repeated planning applications in certain circumstances; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 24 February, and to be printed [Bill 47].

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Business of the House

Motion made, and Question proposed,

3.45 pm

Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): I am always suspicious of business motions, particularly when no explanation is offered for them. I hoped that at least a brief explanation would be forthcoming. I am concerned, because an earlier business motion, to which, I freely admit, I did not pay sufficient attention, precluded the amendment of instructions to the Crossrail Bill Committee. Paragraph (b)(i) of the Government instruction is particularly offensive, as it prevents the Committee from considering extensions beyond Maidenhead to Reading. An earlier business motion limited the powers of the House to provide effective scrutiny of the Bill, and I am now concerned about the implications of the present business motion. The Government owe us at least an explanation of the need for it.

3.46 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Derek Twigg): The motion before the House deals with the committal motion and the instruction on the Crossrail Bill. The committal motion formally commits the Bill to be considered by a Select Committee. It sets out the size of the Committee, how it is to be appointed and how it is to operate. Those essentially logistical provisions are well precedented. More importantly, it also sets the petitioning period. Hon. Members will see that we have given people nine weeks, until 16 September, to lodge a petition. Traditionally, petitioning periods have lasted two to three weeks—we are giving people three times that amount of time. The instruction is required to help ensure that the hybrid Bill process that is used for Crossrail is fully compliant with the environmental impact assessment directive. It is designed to guide the Select Committee in its consideration of comments on the environmental statement. Second Reading establishes the principle of the Bill, but that principle is not considered by the Committee. Where comments on the environmental statement relate to the matters that the Committee has a remit to consider, the Committee will take them into account in its assessment.

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): I am listening carefully to the Minister. The argument that he has just evinced suggests that he considers the termination of Crossrail in the west at Maidenhead a point of principle. Am I correct in my understanding of the Government's position?

Derek Twigg: That is the case, but a Select Committee can consider other related matters. The instruction invites the Committee to inform the House of, but not to comment on or analyse, the nature of representations on the environmental impact of the project that constitute opposition to the principle of the Bill and that, for that reason, fall outside the Committee's remit.
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Mrs. May: I am grateful to the Minister for his generosity in giving way to me a second time, but he has just implied that the Select Committee will be able to look at the issue of the termini on the Crossrail line. In fact, the Government instruction expressly forbids the Select Committee from looking at alternative termini for that line. He says that it is a matter of principle for the Government, so why are they refusing to give the Select Committee permission to look at alternative termini?

Derek Twigg: The Committee cannot look at the principle, but it can look at the detail.

Mr. George Galloway (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Respect): The exchange between the Minister and the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) suggests the ragged nature of the Government's preparation. The Minister will be aware of the looming shadow of judicial review, so why at midday today were the papers from Bindman and Partners, expressly pointing out the grounds on which judicial review could be sought, not among the documents that the Government provided for today's proceedings?

Derek Twigg: I do not know why that is the case, but we will obviously try to find out during today's debate.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con): I detect some confusion in the House about the Minister's answer a moment ago about a Committee being able to look at the detail but not the principle. Will the Committee be able to consider the merits or otherwise of extending the line to Reading?

Derek Twigg: What the Committee wishes to consider is a matter for the Committee, but the principle of the Bill is set out.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. According to the note in the Lobby, under the title, "The Speaker's Provisional Selection of Instructions", you have decided that the instruction in the name of the Secretary of State be moved and voted on, and that the instruction in the name of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), with which my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) and others are associated, could also potentially be voted on, but only if the Secretary of State's instruction is defeated. Will you reconsider that, for this reason: the second instruction has a broader remit than the first? The logic might be, if it were acceptable to you and others, that we vote on the wider alternative before voting on the narrower. These are highly controversial matters, as you know. Is there any scope for that decision being reconsidered now or during the afternoon's proceedings?

Mr. Speaker: I must follow the order on the Order Paper. That is why the instructions are laid in the No Lobby, as I intended to tell the House.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The motion is debatable, and I would far rather the Minister made his contribution and that others came in, instead of the Minister constantly giving way. It is rather untidy to do it that way.
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Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister said that it is for the Committee to decide what it considers and what it does not consider. My understanding was that the instruction was quite specific in tailoring what the Committee can or cannot consider, in a way that seems to contradict what the Minister has just told us. For the sake of clarity and to inform the present debate, will you give us your guidance?

Mr. Speaker: It is for the Minister, not for me, to interpret his instruction.

Peter Luff: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is an awkward debate. We are trying to establish the orderliness of our proceedings, and the questions that I want to put might perhaps be more appropriately put to you. The Minister has so far not answered the question that I put to him, which was why we need the motion, from a procedural point of view. He explained the elements of the debate and we understand that, but if he does not answer that question, would it be in order for me to put a point of order to you, asking why we need the motion?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman can always put a point of order to me, but he has lost me there. It is the Minister's motion, not mine.

Derek Twigg: A number of the issues that hon. Members have raised and will raise on the committal motion will be debated during the afternoon and evening. The committal motion is self-explanatory. Clearly, it is for the Select Committee to consider the matters. If the Committee wanted to consider the principle, it would have to come back to the House. It is for the House to decide, but what we wish to set today is the principle, and that is what the committal motion does.

3.53 pm

Mr. George Galloway (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Respect) rose—

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